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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Friday, May 14, 2004


Conservative answers to liberal problems: Homelessness

Orrin Judd points to this Atlantic piece about Bush's "homelessness czar," Phillip Mangano. A few key snippets:
Homelessness is one of the few corners of public policy in which traditional liberal ideas have gone largely unchallenged. But Mangano believes that many professional activists, though well intentioned, have given up on ending homelessness. They have accepted the problem as intractable and fallen back on social work and handouts as a way to make broken lives more bearable. In doing so, he says, they have allowed "a certain amount of institutionalism" to take root. The Bush Administration proposes to solve the problem by beginning with the hardest cases: the 10 percent who are severe addicts or mentally ill, and consume half of all resources devoted to homeless shelters. Mangano believes that by moving these chronic cases into "supportive housing"—a private room or apartment where they would receive support services and psychotropic medications—the government could actually save money, and free up tens of thousands of shelter beds. The Bush Administration, spotting an opportunity to increase the return on its investment, is seeking to end chronic homelessness within ten years. Not only is this possible, Mangano insists, but it is common sense...

Once Mangano had finished speaking on that March morning, the skeptics started probing for clues that he was providing intellectual cover for budget cuts, or cooking up a plot to get the smelly, crazy, drunken homeless out of sight and then ignore the rest. But his energetic sincerity disarmed them—to their evident dismay, in some cases. In desperation one brought up weapons of mass destruction, and Mangano rolled his eyes. "It's so refreshing to be back in New York, surrounded by Democrats," he cracked...

Mangano believes that the breakthrough in the battle to abolish homelessness occurred only in the past five years, after Dennis Culhane determined that about one percent of the nation's urban population was homeless each year—more than anyone expected. Culhane studied this group and discovered that most were homeless for less than two months, but a hard-core minority—about 10 percent—stayed in shelters about two years, on average. "The emergency-shelter system," Culhane explained, "designed as a safety net, was serving as an expensive form of permanent housing." He measured just how much the chronic cases cost by tracking 10,000 mentally ill homeless people in New York, 5,000 of whom were placed in supportive housing and 5,000 of whom remained in shelters or on the street. It turned out that the first group cost the city no more, and probably less, than the second. A wave of similar studies reinforced his findings.
The whole thing is very much worth reading, and worth keeping an eye on.

Agree, disagree, have more information on the topic? Please, feel free to leave a comment. No profanity!

One facet of the Section 8 legislation that I have never seen addressed is that the rents that are paid to the landlords are way above the normal housing prices in many areas, including Cleveland. Once Section 8 is in a location, it drives up the cost of other housing. It also tends to keep people comfortable enough that they usually don't make other, necessary improvements in their life. The really good thing about being just a little uncomfortable is that it forces you to examine your life, and change what is not working.
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